Rice University professor will continue to research needle-free microscopy for
malaria diagnosis with Phase II funding from Grand
Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to
address persistent health and development challenges.
causes an estimated 655,000 deaths each year," said Rebecca
Richards-Kortum, Rice's Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and
director of Rice 360˚: Institute
for Global Health Technologies. "Our goal is to develop an
inexpensive, battery-powered microscope that can detect the malaria parasite at
the point of care, without drawing blood. Our hope is that this device will
improve malaria diagnosis and treatment in low-resource settings, which may not
have access to trained technicians consumables, or other infrastructure
necessary for an accurate diagnosis."
2009, Richards-Kortum was awarded a Phase I grant for the program. Challenges
Explorations (GCE) Phase I recognizes individuals worldwide who are taking
innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and most persistent
global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of
bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the
developing world face every day. Phase II recognizes those ideas that have made
significant progress toward implementation.
project is one of the Phase II Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced
in innovative global health research are already paying off," said Chris
Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We’re excited that we consistently
receive so many surprising ideas from around the world and that we’re able to
provide a second round of funding for some of the most unconventional among
detecting malaria means taking a patient's blood, staining it and analyzing it
under a microscope to see if the person is infected. The Rice technique would
require no taking of blood, would produce no biohazardous waste and wouldn't
require trained personnel to either administer the test or read the results.
The portable device would peer through a patient's skin at superficial blood
vessels. It would light up blood cells flowing through the vessels, read and
analyze light reflected back and immediately deliver a diagnosis. Red blood
cells carrying malaria parasites would show up under the influence of a topical
stain applied to the skin before reading.
Grand Challenges ExplorationsGrand
Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by
the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, more than 700 people in 45
countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program
is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative
uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online
applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of $100,000 are
awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a
follow-on grant of up to $1 million. Applications for the current open round,
Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, be accepted through Nov. 7.